After Derek Chauvin Verdict: Where Do We Go Next?

Whoa, amigo, where you been? Last time we talked you jawed about how the Republicans and what’s-his-face could lose it “all” in 2020. You were spot on, amigo. Honestly, it was easy to be “spot on.” What’s-his-face and his adopted party are and were incredibly transparent, and if you observed them using the optics that noted greed, racism, self-entitlement, and power mongering, their motives and movements were totally telegraphed. But why the silence, amigo? There’s been so much going down since the dethroning of the “childlike man.” Well, life caught up with me and the pandemic took over and controlled so much of my activities. Sheltering in place for over a year strained my psyche, and writing about everything that was happening would have been like looking at Mordor swamp water through a magnifying glass; you know it won’t be a pretty sight, so don’t drink the water, and move on. I love the imagery, amigo, but a translation, please. I didn’t want to dwell on the pandemic and all the dysfunctional behavior it brought to light. No, it was time to just do the right thing for myself, my family, and my community, and hope for the best.

So many people died from the virus and are still dying. When will it all end, amigo? I’m afraid that answer depends upon how smart our fellow citizens are, and what they’re willing to do in order stop this pandemic. Fortunately, the medical profession has learned how to treat the infected more efficiently and effectively, so the numbers of those dying from Covid will diminish regardless of society’s overall response to this deadly virus. We may never reach herd immunity via vaccination because of “vaccine hesitancy,” which I like to refer to as “vaccine, I don’t care about the rest of you all ’cause you don’t mean nothing to me, hesitancy.” Oh yeah! Now you’re telling it like it is. Well there’s no reason to sugarcoat the truth. We’ve got a lot of ignorant, self-absorbed, self-righteous, easily manipulated individuals in this country who will do most anything to allow these conditions to continue. So, are you going to write about the virus and what we should do next? No, like I said, “Don’t drink the water, and move on.” Everybody who cares about their neighbors and this country knows what should be done. No, my friend, the guilty verdict rendered in Minneapolis stirred and inspired me. Justice prevailed, and hopefully the timing of this ethical and moral victory will help disable the Covid-19 sedation influencing our lives and allow us to move forward with important cultural alterations. What pair of racist pants are you going hem, amigo? Well, the Minneapolis trial’s verdict brings to mind “systemic racism,” and this one “win” against our national blight needs to be a launching pad for many, many more such victories. Considering this, I’m going to write about and promote what I believe is the most basic, yet most significant adjustment that must occur before systemic racism can become a thing of the past.

You going to hammer the police, amigo? No, the snake has many heads and chopping off one won’t stop racism and its many facets. No, we must make the snake feel friendless, forcing it to seek shelter by crawling back under the ancient rock whence it came. I love your imagery, man, so what’s the solution? Pull up a chair, my dear friend. My solution is as ancient as the elders of the hunter-gathering nomadic tribes of pre-history. It’s as old as Socrates, and the gardens, squares, and columned hallways he and his many followers traversed and dwelt within. The solution I’ll champion is the one which conquers when all else fails. You’ve got my attention. I’m on the edge of my seat, ready to learn. I like your choice of words because my saving grace is education. Honest, truthful, to-the-point teaching about racism, past and present, is the only way to wake up a complacent society, forcing it to take note and own the current racial divisions and systemic racism that we all live with. Now sit back in your chair and get comfortable, my friend. There is much to be said. Doing just that, maestro, although a thought has emerged from the recesses of my mind that I feel obliged to mention. Yes? Are we worried about word count? Hmmm, probably not. I suspect the intro length jarred that memory loose. No, we’re not worried about word count. Some thoughts need lengthy consideration, and this would be just that. Let ’er rip, compadre. I’m sitting back, comfortable like with my feet propped up on the stool. All devices are turned off, and nourishment is at hand.

Systemic Racism

Before I delve into the specifics of how education will dehorn the beast, I’d like to focus on what I consider to be our country’s biggest deterrent to a healthy, viable culture: systemic racism. First of all, regardless of what the vested interests might say, systemic racism is real. It subtly yet powerfully dwells within all our institutions: government, law enforcement, industry and employment, judicial system, educational institutions, states, cities, and neighborhoods all harbor this racist platform. The proof is in our cultural realities. Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) individuals are most likely living at a lower socioeconomic level as compared to white people of European ancestry. They are more likely living in less desirable areas and bundled together in housing far removed from homogeneous, white neighborhoods. Most BIPOC individuals, within their particular job selections, are not participating in decision-making levels, like manager or CEO positions. They are the laborers working for the Man. Of course we see exceptions to what I just described, but in general, what I mentioned is our cultural reality. One noteworthy example that reinforces this opinion jumps out to me: Nike recently gave year-end bonuses to various department heads for jobs well done. Not one of these CEOs were BIPOC individuals. God help you if you miss the irony here. As a nation we must do much better than this.

All white people must accept several realities. First and foremost, the white race is responsible for systemic racism and the damaging racism we find in our country today. These racist expressions were and are caused by a white cultural belief that people of European descent are superior to other races and ethnicities. Secondly, racism in this country will not end until most Caucasians change their beliefs and their actions toward people of color. White racial attitudes directed towards others, be they rooted in one’s personal ancestral history or simply a result of ignorance and/or complacency, have created the racism we see and live with.

In trying to eliminate racism and systemic racism, we cannot overlook recent history. In the fifties and sixties, significant anti-discrimination laws were passed by our national congress, laws that became the rule of the land. These “acts” were designed to stop systemic racism. Several Civil Rights Acts, passed in the fifties and sixties, were intended to stop voter discrimination. Other acts passed in the sixties banned discrimination in housing and employment based upon race, religion, or gender. Talk about pulling the rug out from underneath systemic racism. There you be. How could the beast continue on its merry way? Well, complacency and its all-too-often companion ignorance left the door ajar for systemic racism, and the ugly phenomenon slowly and stealthfully weaseled its way back into our culture and became brazen, once again. Why mention complacency and ignorance? Well, I believe most white, educated Americans are not racist at heart. They are racist by actions. They continue with racist endeavors because of their ignorance as to how their actions create and embolden racism and racial discrepancies. For sure there are outright racists who because of their local and regional history and/or family lineage are straight-up, in-your-face, haters of people of color. But for many Americans individual, personal, degrading customs and habits are symptoms of ignorance that because of systemic racism and its ability to segregate ethnicities have allowed one hand not to see how it affects the other.

Herein lies my hope for the eventual demise of systemic racism. All those well-meaning white people who agreed with the Civil Rights Acts of the fifties and sixties sincerely felt that systemic racism and racism in general were wrong. Their mistake was in not taking notice of what transpired after the laws were passed. They became contented, feeling that the “powers that be” would protect and abide by the new laws and comply with the “majority’s” wishes. Well, this proved to be a naïve assumption, leading us to our present racial/racist confrontational society. During this, our present attempt to dismantle racism, we must all remember how we failed in the past, a.k.a., becoming complacent and expecting others to be our watchdogs. This go-round requires all of us to participate, be vigilant, and never expect others to be our standard bearers.

People of color cannot end racism and systemic racism in America. They’ve been trying to do just that for hundreds of years. White people must educate themselves so they are not a hindrance, but rather become an aid, helping people of color gain the respect and equality they have deserved. White people must change their beliefs and become more knowledgeable about how their actions influence other ethnicities in this country. Many white people in this country who believed in the rightness of the Civil Rights Acts are still alive. Our offspring, for the most part, are more understanding of race and racial differences than we were. Remember, the younger generations grew up with numerous heroes of color, something that the “Greatest Generation” for the most part did not have. The Baby Boomers were the first generation to be notably influenced by people of color: Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Indira Gandhi, Mohammed Ali, Carl Lewis, Nelson Mandela, Cezar Chavez, Michael Jordan, Russell Means (Oglala Lakota), and Ronald Takaki are a few individuals who taught all Americans about dignity, respect, and honor. These magnificent individuals positively influenced many older white Americans but not to the degree that younger whites have been influenced. The racial divides influencing the Boomers were great; they allowed for positive approval and recognition of BIPOC individuals, but we, mostly, did not identify with them. It was always, “that really smart black person, or that Asian guy is right-on.” Most boomers always saw color first, then the person. Young white Americans, on the other hand, due to a much larger pool of iconic BIPOC heroes, more integrated school systems, and more diverse and prominent social media platforms, have been greatly influenced by BIPOC people and readily identify with their brothers and sisters. I believe many of the younger generations see the person first and then their color. There is a plethora of influential, BIPOC people to listen to, respect and emulate: LeBron James, the Obamas, Tatanka Means, Oprah, Snoop Dog and many of the hip-hop and rap artists with their direct and poignant cultural and political lyrics, Jerry Yang, Black journalists like Robin Roberts, Kristen Welker and Don Lemon, and the Dalai Lama all have placed their stamps upon contemporary American culture. My point is this: white America is at a time when it can help dismantle systemic racism and racism in general. For generations, white people have had BIPOC heroes, have related to them, and identified with them, and I am convinced that we stand on the threshold of achieving the moment when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, “but by the content of their character.”

Education Is the Solution

Education, Education, Education…How will educating the American people help end systemic racism? Ending racism and its many facets will require messaging starting at all levels and within all educational arenas. Institutional education is divided into three basic camps:

  • One subgroup is the taught material, curriculum.
  • Another subgroup is teaching mechanics, which basically is the teachers providing the knowledge and the tools they use.
  • The third subgroup’s composition is the various education levels: for example, preschool, elementary, secondary, and higher education are the most common levels noted by our culture.

There are obviously other platforms for education. The visual arts come to mind: art pieces, movies, and theater all can educate the audience. Speakers at a podium found in a park, a public auditorium, or a community center can educate their audience. There are many vehicles for education and each has its own unique delivery. All educational methods should be used to help end systemic racism. A diversity of deliveries will allow for the largest number of individuals to be reached.

Institutional public education, since it is mandated, reaches a large segment of our population. This group will be the basis for derailing racism in our country. Students must learn about racism’s effects on targeted ethnicities. They need to comprehend how a racial group’s daily life is affected by racism, and how their overall destiny is controlled and channeled by the same. Young children are very sympathetic and empathetic toward injustice and can learn so much from a book, either read to them aloud or read by themselves. Guest speakers at school assemblies are very influential with young audiences, and thespian performances are even more so. All the various informational techniques mentioned above are nothing new to educators, and utilizing them to teach about racism would be completely doable. Of course, age-appropriate material needs to be generated for younger students. Created curriculum material and lessons are not alien to elementary teachers. Most are quite adept at it, and have been doing the same to some degree since “day one” of their teaching careers. While waiting for their districts to generate a formal “racism” curriculum, grade school teachers could construct their own units and move forward with relevant education. Education about racism in America could begin tomorrow in the lower grades if teachers agreed upon basic concepts to be taught and focused on the development of age-appropriate lessons.

Secondary education, due to the nature of the beast, that is, older children, can be more analytical and expansive in its approach to combating racism. At this level, younger students should learn about regional effects of racism. They should learn the history of racism in their area and what exists presently. I believe that most white American students if made knowledgeable of the horrendous history and effects of racism in their city, county, or state would reject racism and racial inequality. The older high school students should learn about historical American racism, starting with slavery and the plantation system; from there, the curriculum should move on to Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era, then continue by noting racist threads abounding throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Toward the end of high school, both the history and description of systemic racism should dominate the curriculum. The subtle nuances of systemic racism should be taught. Job and wage discrepancies should be noted. Housing segregation and the mechanics allowing for such should be taught; that is, banking and real estate bias should be highlighted. Historical and present police bias should be taught to the older students. The juniors and seniors should not only learn about systemic racism, but they should also learn about how to dismantle the same. Programs should also be developed for these students to get out into the community and promote racial equality.

The overall comprehensive curriculum that I described, albeit just a rough outline at best, would greatly facilitate the demise of racism. Students, due to their inherent belief in fairness and equality, are the perfect demographic to aid in the destruction of racist beliefs and systemic racism in general.

If all school districts in our country would develop a complete curriculum regarding racism and systematic racism, I ardently believe the ugly beast would find few supporters and followers. Maybe I’m a dreamer or an idealist.…If so, I wear these characteristics proudly and urge everyone to pick up the toolbox filled with proactive behavior and thought, positive attitudes, and the belief in the overall goodness of our fellow citizens. Grab this box firmly and take it to work with you. Now is not the time to listen to the racists pounding shield and sword together. It’s not the time to hear the words of naysayers, cynics, and doubters. Now is the time to do the right thing and begin the destruction of racism in our country.

Okay, okay, I digressed and got a little emotional. Some of you, dear readers, probably sensed a conclusion near at hand. I apologize for my critical error in writing structure and my obvious weakness, demonstrated by not editing these misplaced thoughts out of the article.

Specific, Practical Steps

Back to reality. Bottom line: how many school districts in America have a curriculum like the one I just discussed? Probably not many, and further, how many would develop such a curriculum on their own volition? Probably not many. How many school districts should have the curriculum mentioned above? Every school district in our “fair land” should be teaching this or a similar curriculum to their students. I’m an idealist by nature but a realist by practicality. Curriculum development is a lot of hard, roll-up-your-sleeves work, and when dealing with material that in some regions will be very controversial, many educators would be inclined to turn a blind eye to the task. So how to get the ball rolling?

  • Well, my first thought favors peer pressure. Parents need to encourage and demand “racism” courses of study be taught in their districts. If the school board seems hesitant or flat-out hostile to the idea, then the school board can be adjusted by electing new members to the board. “We the people” need to change this country’s racial attitudes. One such method is by our votes, and whenever our vote can aid in the elimination of racism, we must exercise it.
  • A second substantial influence on school districts is the federal government. Districts throughout our country receive monies for various reasons from D.C.; about 8 percent of each state’s school budget comes from the feds. Tinkering with that number depending on the district’s development and use of a “racism” curriculum could sway some hesitant districts into action. I’m more in favor of the carrot versus the stick when influencing school districts, especially since most federal money goes into programs that help disadvantaged students. I’m sure most districts wouldn’t mind some additional revenue from the feds because of the development and implementation of a “racism” curriculum.
  • My last thought about how to encourage the development and adoption of racism curriculums deals with transparency; there should be agencies or organizations taking note of which regions, cities, and towns have districts trying to educate their students about racism. This information should be readily accessible by the general public. Many people moving into a new area check out the local districts and schools to see which might be their best “fit.” If they were anxious about racism and racial issues, they probably would be inclined to enroll their children in a school with similar concerns, that is, one with racism education. Schools are funded monies per student.  A district might think twice about their curriculum if they felt the “lack of” was causing the district’s enrollment to drop.

These few ideas are my “pet” ones, so to speak, and I’m sure you, dear reader, can think of others. Therein lies the point; you and I can think of ideas. Let’s do just that and act upon them. At this point in our country’s evolution, racism must be dismantled by all of us.

More BIPOC Teachers

Working within the structure of my educational trilogy—curriculum, teachers, and academic levels—I’d like to address, now, the “teacher” part of the equation. The most influential part of any educational process is the person delivering the message, the teacher. Of course the material taught is important, but for the overall educational experience, the teacher is the engine that makes it all work. Ask any student what their favorite class is, and I guarantee most will answer with the subject taught by their favorite educator. Teaching and teaching success is personality driven, and the important personality belongs to the one presenting the material.

This country is sadly in need of more BIPOC teachers. We need more BIPOC individuals standing in front of the classroom, presenting lessons to their students. Ask a grade school student who their heroes are and they’ll often mention their parents or an older sibling, but always, within the mix, will be one of their teachers. How many times have you heard a renowned athlete, when asked about the most influential person in their life, mention a high school coach, their teacher. Getting more BIPOC people educating our children will be the most effective way to help vanquish racism in our country.

It may take decades before the demographics in America change enough for most white people to have neighbors of color. We can change the ratio of diversity of teachers in our school systems almost overnight. This must be done. We need young people being taught by BIPOC teachers. These students need to see people from all ethnic groups standing before them, teaching lessons, and becoming significant adults in their lives. Think how quickly all the racial stereotypes will be discarded, when on a regular, day-to-day basis, the stereotypes are proven wrong.

Getting more BIPOC people into teaching positions will require loans being directed towards them. The basic principles of systemic racism produce classes with fewer financial resources than others. A four-year college is not affordable to many people targeted by systemic racism. Loans and grants must be made more available. One thinks of the feds immediately when musing about loans and grants for education. Well, I believe it’s time to start thinking about the Warren Buffets, the Bill Gateses, and the Mark Zuckerbergs of this country when thinking about these financial aids. Remember, the federal government years ago enacted legislation to dismantle systemic racism. One outcome of these laws was more student loans made available to disadvantaged students. These early federal government efforts failed. No, it’s time for wealthy white people to step up to the plate and help hit racism out of the ballpark. Opening up deep pockets would greatly aid in the destruction of American racist attitudes and expressions thereof.

When thinking about loans and grants, I prefer loans with forgiveness clauses attached. There have been in the past medical loans granted with such circumstances. I remember one such loan given to students where if the loan recipient practiced medicine in a rural area for “x” amount of years, the loan would be forgiven. In our teaching financial aid situation, one could envision a clause requiring continual teaching for “x” number of years, and/or regional incentives adding into the mix.

Here’s another federal government intervention I favor in regard to securing a larger number of BIPOC teachers: the Department of Education should evaluate teacher racial bias within school districts. They should offer districts with few BIPOC teachers on their staffs monetary incentives to increase these numbers. Again the carrot versus the stick should be used for persuading districts into action. This information should be on public record, for all to see. Transparency needs to be the calling card for all actions aiding in the destruction of systemic racism. The public needs to be selective in how they live their lives, always choosing the paths that lead to the ultimate banishment of racism.

Higher Education

I’ve pretty much covered most segments within my educational trilogy. To this point, little has been said about “higher education.” Much can be done at this level. New degrees can be developed that focus on our national racism, and world racial bias, too. Many fields of study like Economics, Political Science, Geography, Sociology, History, Journalism, English, International Relations, to mention just a few, could easily create degrees, specifically noting how racial bias has influenced areas within their domain. Getting more BIPOC professors, deans, and college presidents in place is a must. Colleges should create outreach programs so that the communities they dwell within and their surrounding areas could benefit from the education their student body is receiving. Wealthy alumni should be donating monies to their respective universities, specifically for the creation of “racial” education. The Phil Knights of this world need to step up, don new hats, and inundate their favorite universities with cash directed toward ending systemic racism. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: white people need to overtly step up to the plate and aggressively help dismantle racism and all its manifestations. High school students when choosing their “higher education” path, be it a two-year or four-year college, should be readily able to find various statistics about their school of choice. I’m not referring to degree opportunities; no, I’m addressing such figures as ethnicity ratios within the college’s student population well as in the faculty and administration. All this information should be available by the click of a single key on a high school student’s computer. Higher education focused on educating students about racism will produce immediate benefits for our culture. The graduating young men and women will move from the classroom into our workforce and start to influence all areas of their chosen occupations. Armed with an accurate understanding of racism/systemic racism which preceded and surrounds them, they can make decisions and choices that will help end our national racism blight.

I’m sure, dear reader, you can think of many other situations found within contemporary institutional education that can be amended or added to in order to help end racism in America. I hope this is the case, and I also hope you present these thoughts to your friends, teachers, and local school boards. If appropriate, letters to your alma mater should be sent mentioning your concerns, too. Alumni have a significant influence on the schools they attended. All of us are indebted to the knowledge we acquired as we grew up. Formal education provided much of the information. Future generations will be influenced in the same manner. Using the educational system as a weapon against racism will be an efficient tool, one we should utilize immediately.

What Can We All Do?

The destruction of racism in America has to be a grass roots movement. It has to be aided by the many white people who live within our fair land who don’t want to be racist. We all must pull on our “civic duty” pants and take on the responsibility that this movement requires. For sure, the federal government should be involved by helping with finances, oversight, and when necessary, applying pressure on places resisting change. The federal Department of Justice and Attorney General should “take to task” any individual, organization, corporation, or civic institution that attempts to deny BIPOC people the rights duly granted them by legislation and the Constitution of this land. But, as I’ve already said, the main force attacking and destroying systemic racism must be “we the people,” and in particular, the white people of this country need to reject racism and replace it with a culture based on equality and acceptance of all peoples, regardless of race and ethnicity.

Now, before I conclude, let me discard my “idealist hat” and replace it with one sewn together with the fabric of reality. Do I believe that racism in America will be completely removed from our culture? No, I do not. Racism exists because of so many causal factors. Greed and the desire for power, in my opinion, are the two most influential demons promoting racism. Will people seeking power and wealth discard the leverage provided by racism? Will they end their propaganda machinery that explains and justifies feelings of superiority between races? Not all of them. I do feel, however, that if we change our educational system, the believers in racism will diminish over time, and those wishing to exploit our culture using racist actions and beliefs will have fewer and fewer people willing to do their bidding. Education is the answer. With our citizenry educated about the ugly, abusive, and culturally destructive nature of racism and systemic racism, the multi-headed snake will have no place to bask in the sun. With a hail of sticks and stones tossed at it by knowledgeable and resentful citizens, it will hastily uncoil itself and slither back under the rock of insignificant cultural philosophies. This is where it belongs, and this is where it should stay!

Amigo, I give. You should write more often, my friend. Why, because of my imagery, symbolism, analogies, and direct, to-the-point discussion of a serious topic? No, no, compadre. I just think maybe if you penned thoughts more often, you wouldn’t be so wordy. And here I thought you were not a word counter. I’m one due to practical reasons only; I can sit just so long before the snacks run out and other bodily needs must be addressed. Well, remember, my friend: a written passage is just like using your DVR. When you need to, you can always hit “pause,” get up, move around, take care of business, and then return to completing the article. Easy for you to say. You’ve got a mind knowing where it’s going. Mine wanders off and follows whatever path presents itself. Those thoughts make me smile, my friend. If you only knew…But I hear you. In my defense, as I said, some topics truly require much thought and analysis. Systemic racism would be one such conversation. No argument from me, amigo, but…No “buts,” dear friend. All too often, needed discussions are tabled by the “but” rail switch.  I’m with you writer-san. Are you really back to writing now, and have other thoughts to share? Yes, I believe I am. The boat I’m oaring has many channels ahead and daily tides affecting its speed and direction, but most assuredly the written word is one course I will always set. Well, amigo, what’s on the horizon? More thoughts about racism and ending systemic racism for sure but, more pressingly, I wish to explore and illuminate the loss of the “American Dream.” The Biden administration is doing so many things right, but Biden and the Dems are continuing to openly ignore the reality of what’s-his-face’s base. They treat them like an aberration that will eventually dissipate into thin air. Wrong! This group of people needs to be personally addressed and worked with. Part of their anger and consequent far-right tendencies has to do with their feeling about how government and its left-leaning ideologies has robbed them of their entitled birthrights. Whoa, compadre, where do you get these thoughts? Just been hanging around for a while, dear friend, taking notes, staying objective, and thinking about the big picture. Well, I’d better stock up the snacks because I sense another assault upon my thought processes. I would like to think of my writing as an aid to your thinking, dear friend, rather than an attack. I’ll let you know how I feel after the next article. That “aid” idea sounds pretty comfy and cozy. I’ll remember that, compadre, and keep the armada harbored, with only signal flags doing the talking.

Dear reader…I hope this article finds you healthy and safe. We’ve all lived through so much in the last few years; so many actions and revelations have caused us to question who we are and what paths we should take next. I truly believe that America has weathered the storm. With thoughtful, honest, transparent, and meaningful dialogue we will gain a place where the elimination of racism can occur, and we’ll set the bar higher than before, making sure that we truly live in the land of opportunity. The land of opportunity for all peoples.

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